Why Everyone Deserves a Second Chance…

cngo

Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost,

No birth, identity, form—no object of the world.

Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing; Appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere confuse thy brain.

Ample are time and space—ample the fields of Nature.

The body, sluggish, aged, cold—the embers left from earlier fires, The light in the eye grown dim, shall duly flame again;

The sun now low in the west rises for mornings and for noons continual;

To frozen clods ever the spring’s invisible law returns,

With grass and flowers and summer fruits and corn.

-Walt Whitman

I’m almost three and a half years out from my divorce. It kind of amazes me how fast that time flew, and all the big changes and events in my life that have happened between then and now.  Something I’ve alluded to in previous posts over those years is that dating after being out of the game for over a decade of marriage is no joke. Alot of this is because I’ve changed so much as a person, and the old dynamics of the way my dating life used to go don’t fit anymore.  Furthermore, the kind of people I’m interested in is so vastly different than when I was in my twenties. I’m much less driven by my fears and childhood wounds than I used to be. Also, I ain’t got time or patience for unnecessary drama.

I have a dating policy that I implemented about two and a half years ago. It’s something I take pretty seriously. : my policy states that barring really, really dreadful first dates, I will always go on at least two dates with a person.

Why?

Because so much can be weird and go wrong on the first date that isn’t representative of who the person really is. Nerves play a big role in feeling comfortable, it takes time sometimes to figure out a conversation flow, maybe you or the other person is still hung up on someone else and isn’t completely present. And, if you’ve been texting the person for a while after meeting them online, it takes some time after meeting the “real” them to undo the stories in your head that you’ve created about who they are.

I actually think first dates really shouldn’t count for much unless there is a glaringly obvious red flag or sign that makes you know with a gut feeling certainty it’s not going to work.  I’ve only had one date like that in the last few years, but I went on a second date with him anyway because that’s how important I think my policy is.

I hate being judged on how I come across the first time I meet people.  Some days I can be incredibly charming and things click right away.  But other times, when I meet people, I can be stressed or insecure, and I have this horrible problem of looking ticked off and angry when I’m really just concentrating hard on something.

Once, in college, a girl who later became a close friend, told me that when she first met me in an English composition class that she thought I was one of those super shy people that won’t dare say anything to anyone because God forbid they might answer me back.  Too bad for her, she realized soon enough that there are plenty of times where I’m not capable of shutting up.

Another person, more recently, who became my workout buddy, thought after our first very quick conversation, that I must be a bitch.  Apparently, in my shyness and insecureness about the new unfamiliar situation I was in, I came across as quite the snark.  Fortunately, she soon figured out that I’m actually a pretty decent person and we became good friends. I will admit that I was horrified, as a strong 2 on the Enneagram, that anyone thought me a bitch.  If only people could see inside my head and know right away what I was thinking, my good intentions and sincere motivations, how I genuinely like most people, and……this is exactly why romantic interests (and potential friends for that matter) need second date chances….because I clearly cannot read their minds or immediately perceive their motivations either.

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I just started up the latest semester of graduate school.  Currently, I’m taking an advanced forensic nursing class.  During the introductory video, my professor made what I consider to be a fantastic connection between trauma-informed care and a well-known approach to disease within healthcare.

In healthcare, there is something called “universal precautions.” This makes the assumption that every person we encounter potentially has some sort of pathogen that could be spread via contact or airborne droplets, so gloves, face shields, masks, and gowns are used as safety measures to prevent unnecessary transmission of disease.

A central tenet of forensic nursing is trauma-informed care….that is, when we work with victims of violence or social injustice, we are mindful that they could have been traumatized by their other people or experiences in their life and are carrying around the effects of those traumas in their minds and bodies.

Here’s the connection and point she made…which I love:  We should extend the idea of universal precautions to trauma; when we encounter anyone new, we should automatically assume that there is the possibility that they are carrying around unseen traumas that we don’t know about and we should mind how we treat them through that lens.  This doesn’t mean that we need to handle every single person we meet with kid gloves, but we should remember that a person’s past influences who they are now, how they communicate, how they interact with others, how they present themselves, etc., and we need to offer them grace for those moments when they aren’t so great or don’t immediately impress us.  Our responses likewise need to be gracious, because we don’t know how we can trigger old wounds or dig them into deeper holes of despair through our thoughtless words or callous treatment of them.

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The thing that strikes me funny about people is that Life clearly never gave us a manual, yet we always judge the hell out of each other and point fingers and categorize the people we think are doing life right compared to those we think are completely screwing up. When you stop and think about it, the way we harp on each other all the time is really stupid and never gets anyone anywhere.

I really hate it when parents get all judgy with each other.  Moms are so good at doing this; we pit ourselves against each other all the time, comparing working moms versus stay at home moms, this parenting style against that parenting style,  “my kid always looks amazingly cute and stylish” versus “thank God my child has pants on today.” We rarely seem to stop and give consideration to the fact that we all grew up in different environments with different degrees of nurture, so clearly, we are going to approach life and parenting differently.

I remember, before I had kids, I could be judgy of moms who didn’t seem to have their shit together in public places, or the ones who seemed to make little effort to discipline their unruly kids, or OMG, the ones who unashamedly fed their kids ice cream for dinner.  Nowadays, after having been through the trenches myself with three boys, I ALWAYS try to give those kinds of parents a second chance…..because, well…..I’ve been there too.  There have been days I’ve been so tired that I bought them fast food for each meal of an entire day.  There have been days when I’ve reached the end of myself and locked myself to nap in my bedroom while my kids sat on their butts in front of the TV while watching grown men doing stupid stuff on YouTube all day. I’ve yelled at my kids in front of people at Target, seethed through my teeth at them at the grocery stores, made ridiculous threats like, “I swear to the living God, if you do “…” one more freaking time, I’m taking away every piece of electronics in the house until you’re 25!!!” at the top of my lungs.  There have been days where I thought I might run away if I had to wash one more piece of pee-soaked laundry, or had to rewire one more electrical socket that somehow got poop in it, or had to dig around in the recesses of the minivan to find that one-month-old sippy cup of soured milk that was stenching up everything to high heaven.

Parents really, really need to be offered second chances.  Never underestimate the traumas they have experienced in raising children.

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I don’t really give up on people. Sure, there are people I don’t want to be around, people that I don’t trust, people whose hearts I think have really become hardened over time for whatever reasons. There are people that I intentionally refuse to do life with.  But I don’t believe anyone is ever lost forever.

And actually, when we reach the point where we completely write off a person as hopeless….I think that might be when we are in our own hell…because we have lost faith in the redemptive creativity of life. When we think anything real or good can ever truly be lost, that’s when love has gone.  On the flip side, I think heaven is about realizing that nothing is set in stone forever, that even those who seem the farthest gone can be rescued.

I’ve seen radical changes in people that, for decades, looked like would never, ever happen. I’ve personally experienced shifts in myself that I could have never imagined, out of beliefs and perceptions that I thought at one time were absolute truth and concretely ingrained in me. And, because I no longer believe in a linear progression of life and death where we get this one infinitesimally short shot at life and then go plunk ourselves down to sit for an eternity in heaven or hell….it seems to me there is all the time in the world for hope and love to work their magic.

I can hear some people’s responses here.  Julie, people are CHOOSING not to change. It’s through their own fault and their own poor choices that they are where they are right now.

Maybe, maybe not.  I think that we actually have far less agency over the trajectory of our lives than we automatically assume.  I don’t think everyone consciously makes all the stupid decisions they make, and I think we often unconsciously and unintentionally make really good choices.  My overall point here: we can’t cavalierly judge that everyone’s lives turn out the way they do because of their conscious thoughts and choices and that all of the responsibility for that should fall squarely on them.

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To give people second chances, we need to be willing to listen to their stories.   I think about this alot working as a nurse in the hospital.  I’ve had so many patients who, at the start, came off as completely disagreeable, unpleasant, and unlovable. But to my constant surprise, in almost all of those people, when I took the time to listen to their stories and showed that I cared, I would begin to notice the soft parts in them, the hurts that they carried, their fears and insecurities. And through that simple act of genuine listening, the dynamics between us would change, trust would build, and our interactions from then on would be completely different. We would find commonalities between us, and my perceptions of them would shift.  Maybe they’d still drive me nuts with their particular quirks, but I would be able to see them through alot more grace and much less frustration and irritation.

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I mentioned earlier that I don’t tend to give up on people all that easily. This is maybe one of my few good strengths, but it has also gotten me hurt on more than one occasion. Something interesting, and kind of sad, is that frequently some people don’t know what to do with people that won’t give up on them. I’ve had people push me away because they couldn’t believe that they could be cared about by someone who had no ulterior motives, no manipulative agenda in place. I’ve known people who revealed to me they were never really sure if they had ever been loved by anyone before, and felt pretty confident that no one had ever truly “seen” them.

These, I believe, are the people that are most in need of second, and third, and fourth, and fifth chances.  Everyone, I fervently believe, deserves to been seen in life.  Everyone deserves to know that they have been deeply loved by at least one other person, that their existence matters, that their worth is not based on what they look like, or what career they have, or their social status, or how clever and witty they might be.

In general, I think the people that are most hurtful to other people have never really felt seen or loved. Those who lash out at others, or withdraw from relationships out of fear, or those who are constantly in the comparison game trying to prove they are better than others….these are the ones in greatest need of more grace and second chances. These are the ones with the biggest heart wounds and the greatest disconnection with their true selves. Instead of hate and disdain, they need our compassion.

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In the Gospels, when asked by his disciples how mnay times forgivness toward a person was required, Jesus replied “seventy times seven.” Not literally 490 times, but rather, forgiveness after forgiveness after forgiveness. Grace upon grace upon grace. We ALL need it.

Whether it’s a first date, or a new friendship, or an encounter with a complete stranger…let’s all make the attempt to let go of our stories about people and really see who they are, forgiving them when they don’t meet our expectations or impress us or fail to give us what we think we need from them. Forgive the quirks, forgive the awkwardness, forgive whatever possible, because we’re all just doing the best we can, trying to make it through a world where there are no clear rules but there is alot of hidden trauma.

 

 

 

 

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